This might come slightly late, but my 15-weeks Internship Programme has finally come to an end, and to a huge relief of mine indeed.

Received this on my a month back while I was still interning for a company. I didn't lie. I dreaded it every single morning I had to wake up to work. You might be thinking how my previous rant on Polytechnic Life shows my immaturity in dealing with issues, but below is an example I took from the Ministry of Manpower site which clearly shows how some employers misuse their interns:


It might be dated back to 2010, but from the many stories I've heard from my friends attached to different industries in the current year of 2014/5, I'm certain that many interns are still dealing with companies taking advantage of them. However, I've decided to write it on a more positive note by giving 10 Tips to Making the Most Out of Your Internship for students to reflect how they should conquer an internship and give you a taste of reality.

* - Mistakes I've made throughout the course of Internship and how it helped me realize my wrongdoings. 

1) Experience is key

My mistake*: Not having gained enough experience in the work industry (or industry I was interning in) and lack understanding of work cultures and ethics.

The more experience you've gained from your previous work experiences, the better you naturally become at understanding work culture and people behaviors in Singapore. You'll come to realize that, once you've been chosen to work for the company, your GPA scores and certs are nothing but numbers and a piece of paper in black and white. What makes you stand out would be your interpersonal skills, how you deal with difficult situations and how you can actually apply the knowledge you've learnt in your workplace.

2) Make new friends 

In different companies, you'll meet all kinds of colleagues and partners of different backgrounds and characters. I was fortunate to have a really nice bunch of colleagues who took care of my course mate and I during this period of Internship. Be humble, learn the ropes from them and progress slowly but steadily; however, do be smart enough to keep a sharp eye on people within your surroundings and know who you should trust.

3) Think twice before you speak 

My mistake: Being too straight-forward and blunt with my words, causing offence and forming a poor impression.

As frank as you can be to your lecturers and friends, there is a significant difference when conversing with your supervisors and managers. It may be bringing up a different view point, recommending a new suggestion or even voicing out your thoughts - but always keep in mind to think through before sugar-coating your words slightly or phrase it nicely before carrying them forth. Not only does it have a higher chance of convincing your superiors, it also prevents you from spouting the wrong words and offending people around you.

4) Keep up with your logbook progress

My mistake: Lagging a few weeks behind and finding it difficult to catch up.

Each student will receive a personal logbook to record daily training activities. It also includes an overview page where students have to fill in by the end of the week, along with various pages and work assignments to complete. Your liaison officer's role is to visit you at work around once a month to keep track of your progress and assess you. Don't be overcome by laziness - keep those lines filled.

5) Stand up for yourself - do NOT get bullied

It's true when they tell you that you'll meet all kinds of people out there, and I happened to meet that toxic co-worker that everyone meets in every work space... Let's just say I had to deal with a backstabbing colleague, a bully with mood swings, and a * of a senior. For obvious reasons, I had to keep my cool after lessons learnt from being disrespectful to a manager, which was ultimately my fault. We all know how much our local work environment values the hierarchy system. However, I just can't let myself get stepped on by a know-it-all employee just because I'm new to the company. Please do NOT get bullied by any of your co-workers and learn to manage the situation well while showing them that you're not a pushover.

6) Be prepared - you might not be working on ANYTHING specifically relating to your course

My mistake: For thinking that I'd be focusing on my course subjects on Business, but part of my job scope involved dealing with manual labour half the time.

I wouldn't say that the company will totally neglect the scope of work that you've covered in school, but that probably wouldn't be their priority of hiring you. Be it getting you to be the coffee girl or ordering you to rush to all places in Singapore, the company hires you to fill up random spaces in their particular industry, whether you like it or not. And whatever you do to complain, most people only have three words to say: suck it up.

7) Fact: Interns are cheap labour - acknowledge it

I hate to agree but interns ARE the cheap labour that you think you are. Instead of paying you a monthly salary of $1500 - $2000 for working full-time, they only need to fork out $400 - $900 a month for you to cover various odd jobs in the company. That's close to 1/3 of what they actually have to pay, so why not? Acknowledge this fact even before you enter your work place so it wouldn't be such a shock to realize it at a later point of time. At the very least, they pay you here - I've heard that companies from other countries don't pay their interns because "they are there to learn".

8) Not everything goes according to plan

My mistake: Thinking that creating a solid timeline and getting it approved by my supervisor would allow my weeks ahead to be smooth-sailing.

We all know that it's crucial to have an overview of your never-ending list of things to do, as well as keeping track of which task to strike off. However, things don't always go according to plan. One moment you're happily checking off your to-do list, the next moment your manager comes in to assign you a bunch of new tasks and you have no choice but to work it off. Eventually, my course mate and I had to change our plans as we go along and check on which tasks are less important to be struck off and learn to manage our time better.

9) Seek guidance from your liaison officer (a.k.a. lecturer in-charge)

Always remember that your lecturers and liaison officers are here to assist whenever you encounter doubts relating to a course subject, work assignment or even dealing with your superiors. One good thing about internships is how you're still under the care of the school and your teachers. Of course, don't over-rely on their help too much, but do keep this in mind whenever you're facing serious doubts and are in need of someone to seek advice from.

10) Count your blessings and stay positive

At the end of the day, what's important is how you manage to survive through this course of Internship through understanding, hard work and an open mind. Instead of looking at the negative aspects like how I did, try keeping it positive and look at the brighter side - making a bunch of fun-loving friends, having a supportive family and being able to earn that bit of income kept me going. Sometimes, I even reward myself with a little something I like (e.g. a slice of cake) after work to keep myself motivated. Count the little things.

Before I end off, I'd like to raise this up again: I know that some of you are afraid of raising up issues to managers for fear of getting graded poorly, but 

Don't let firms take advantage of you just because you're an intern.

Seek guidance from your liaison officers, speak to your managers in an appropriate tone and be clear and firm with the right decisions to make. We might be amateurs who are new to the industry and ready to pick up skills and learn along our course of Internship, but that doesn't mean that others should be exploiting or looking down on us. On our part, we should also have a better understanding of how the industry runs and play our roles in striving for the best that we can.

I might not be the best adviser, but if you're currently facing similar issues and would like some help, I'll be glad to assist here!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and illustrations above solely belong to the Author's personal view points and do not represent the views of the general public. The Author's views are not written to put-down or insult any individual, business or the general public, but to express her own opinions on the topic.